This article is part of our DFS KBO series.
Man, it's good to be back. The KBO showed everyone what it could offer on its Opening Day on Tuesday, rewarding those who stayed up into the early hours of the morning with some fast-paced games, a handful of dingers (with their accompanying bat flips) and even a good old-fashioned rain delay.
The first slate of the season saw an ace (Hyun Jong Yang) get knocked out after three innings and saw homers from a star slugger returning from a serious injury (Sung-bum Na) and a 20-year-old phenom (Baek Ho Kang), as well as eight other players. Refreshingly for American fans, the average time of game was just 2:48 (compared to 3:05 for the MLB in 2019), a figure no doubt aided by the day's two shutouts, including a dominant two-hit performance by former Detroit Tiger Warwick Saupold, whose Hanwha Eagles defeated the SK Wyverns, 3-0.
The league's overall level of offense should be something to watch in the early going, as a de-juiced baseball saw the league OPS drop from .803 in 2018 to .722 last year. Expect scoring to rise over the first week of games as teams move toward the back of their rotations, though Wednesday's slate could remain somewhat low-scoring with every team's No. 2 starter on the mound.
Note: FanDuel is using Team Starting Pitchers rather than individual starting pitchers, presumably to guard against last-minute changes that could occur at hours of the night when most Americans won't be checking their fantasy lineups.
William Cuevas ($7,300 DraftKings, $23 FanDuel as "KT Starting P") faces a Lotte Giants team that finished last in the league with 4.01 runs per game last season. The Giants did manage seven runs in their Opening Day victory Tuesday, but one game isn't enough evidence to believe things will be significantly different this season. The Venezuelan, who has 22.1 innings of MLB experience, recorded a slightly below-average 6.6 K/9 last season but managed a solid 3.62 ERA.
Ben Lively ($6,300 DraftKings, $23 FanDuel as "Samsung Starting P") moved to the KBO last season and recorded a 3.95 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in nine starts. He'll face an NC Dinos offense that led the league in homers last season and jumped out to an early lead with three Tuesday, but his cheap price could make him worth the risk. He also offers rare strikeout upside for a KBO pitcher, as his 9.2 K/9 last season was third among pitchers who made at least nine starts.
Eric Jokisch ($8,500 DraftKings, $24 FanDuel as "Kiwoom Starting P") had quite a strong first season in Korea last year, posting a 3.13 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 30 starts for the Heroes. The lefty faces a Kia Tigers squad that finished second-last in runs scored last season with 4.20 runs per game. He's particularly interesting on FanDuel, where his price is in the middle of the pack, but he could well be worth his high price tag on DraftKings as well.
Baek Ho Kang ($5,600 DraftKings, $14 FanDuel) started his season right with a walk and a solo homer in Tuesday's loss to the Giants. The 20-year-old owns a .311/.384/.513 batting line through the start of his third KBO season, and his strong 12.1 percent walk rate last year indicates he has the sort of strike-zone control that could help him reach another level this season.
Hyun Soo Kim ($5,400 DraftKings, $14 FanDuel) failed to stick in at the MLB level during a two-season stint with the Orioles and Phillies in 2016 and 2017, though his .273/.351/.368 slash line was far from terrible. He's a star back in his native South Korea, however, with a career .321/.403/.493 line, and opened his season the right way with a homer and a double against the Bears on Tuesday.
Sung-bum Na ($3,300 DraftKings, $7 FanDuel) remains the most obviously mis-priced player in the league on both sites, though his DraftKings price already jumped up by $300 after he reached base three times and hit a solo homer in the Dinos' Opening Day win. His price is evidently depressed by the fact that a major knee injury limited him to just 23 games last season, but he's one of the best hitters in the league, owning a career .316/.383/.535 batting line. There's little reason to get off the Na train until his price starts to reflect his obvious talent.
Keon Chang Seo ($2,900 DraftKings, $11 FanDuel) appears to be a steal on both sites. The 30-year-old is a pure contact hitter, hitting just two homers the last two seasons combined. He still does more than enough to be a viable fantasy option, however, especially at his price. He leads off for a Heroes team that scored a league-leading 5.42 runs per game last season and has a career .314 batting average over 10 KBO seasons.
Spmg is not the level of pitcher most teams will hope to get behind in the second game of the season. He struggled to a 5.25 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP last season, striking out just 12.8 percent of batters. The Bears finished with the second-best offense in the league last season and could tee off on Song in this game.
Fernandez deservedly occupies a spot as one of the most expensive hitters on the slate for both platforms. A high-average, moderate-power first baseman (in a somewhat similar vein to fellow Cuban Yuli Gurriel), Fernandez finished second in the league with a .344 batting average last season and opened with two hits Tuesday.
Fellow left-handed bat Oh pairs nicely with Fernandez in the heart of the Bears' order. Oh has hit at least 20 homers in four consecutive seasons and finished fourth in the league with 102 RBI last season. It's an expensive pair, but Song looks like a pitcher who could justify opposing hitters' high prices.
Toss in Kim to get a trio of lefty bats who hit third, fourth and fifth for the Bears in their opener. Kim hit .307 with 12 homers in 323 at-bats against righties last season and hit a solo shot on Opening Day.
Warwick Saupold's two-hit shutout for the Eagles demonstrated just how good unheralded MLB arms can be in the KBO, so we shouldn't immediately write off Brooks based on his poor stateside numbers. Still, the 30-year-old offered very little reason to get excited in his 170.2 career MLB innings, posting a 6.49 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. He'll face a tough task against a Heroes lineup that led the league in runs last season and which knocked Tigers ace Hyun Jong Yang out of the game after just three innings in the opener.
Park showed power but not nearly enough contact in his brief foray into MLB ball back in 2016, with his .191 batting average in 62 games for the Twins outweighing his 12 home runs. His game certainly plays in his native South Korea, however, as he has a career .289/.400/.582 line with at least 31 homers in each of his last six seasons.
Motter will make for an interesting test case for the talent gap between KBO and MLB. The 30-year-old's primary value for MLB teams in his 143-game major-league career was his positional versatility, as he played every position but catcher but didn't come close to hitting well enough to stick around, posting a .191/.263/.312 line. He could fare far better against weaker KBO pitching, though he's significantly more interesting on FanDuel, as his DraftKings price is a bit high for an unproven player who hit seventh in his team's Opening Day lineup.
Seo is remarkably cheap on DraftKings for a player who leads off for the league's best offense. He could be worth his relatively modest price on FanDuel as well, as he's an excellent contact hitter who's hit at least .298 in each of the last six seasons. He should have plenty of opportunities to score this season should the Heroes continue their offensive fireworks.